The Great Training Divide: Perspectives From CEOs and Entry-Level Employees

Aug 21, 2023

Ask a CEO about workplace training and you’re likely to hear stories of abundance, flexible options and effectiveness. Ask an entry- or even mid-level employee and the view may be starkly different, with fewer opportunities, narrower options and, often, irrelevant or unmemorable content. Not only that, an alarming number say they’d quit over feeble career advancement options.

Where you stand on workplace learning and development (L&D) depends on where you sit — that’s the remarkable top takeaway from a new survey conducted by Censuswide with support from CYPHER Learning.

Why do the C-suite and the rank-and-file hold such different views? Often, I think, it’s because companies place greater emphasis on executive training. Actually, it’s increasingly vital to reskill and upskill the entire workforce holistically — up and down the hierarchy.

Move Toward a Pervasive Skills Development Strategy

Censuswide’s survey of 4,000 workers in the U.S. and U.K. found significant discrepancies in opportunities for training and development for senior managers versus the bulk of employees. Among the findings:

  • 88% of business owners and C-level execs are given a choice of when, where and how they do training, compared to just 37% of entry-level employees.
  • 42% of owners and C-suite executives who had training in the past year said they’d had more than in the previous year. Just 17% of intermediate or entry-level workers could say the same.
  • Executives were more than three times as likely to call their training “enjoyable.” While employees assign high value to training — only 1 out of 20 saw no benefit to their current program — only 12% said their current training model didn’t need to be improved.

Training is important across the organization, not just in the corner office. New technologies make it a higher priority still, and not just for tech workers — the AI revolution will touch nearly every job in ways we can’t yet foresee but ought to plan for. The World Economic Forum’s recent study revealed that 6 in 10 workers will require training before 2027, but only half of workers feel they have access to adequate training opportunities today.

Building innovation teams within an organization — “dream teams” — saves money as the cost of recruiting talent spirals upward. According to Glassdoor, the average U.S. employer spends about $4,000 to hire a new worker, and research shows they underperform compared to their internal counterparts.

So there’s a solid business case for closing this great divide in employee training with a skills development strategy that stretches across — and up and down — the organization.

Train and Retain

Moreover, there’s a cost for not acting. Organizations that don’t invest in relevant, effective employee training risk greater turnover and costly churn. Meanwhile, a well-liked training program can be a potent retention-and-loyalty play. Censuswide’s survey also revealed that three-quarters (77%) of employees are more likely to stick with an employer that prioritizes training.

Another recent international study from Boston Consulting Group found more than 41% of “deskless” managers and workers — those who need to be physically present for their jobs — cited lack of career advancement as a top motive for quitting, and 37% said they may leave within six months!

Training is more than a competitive necessity for a business. It’s essential to keeping a workforce engaged, productive and happy. That goes double for those new to the organization, who often need the most training but rarely get it. That limits their career development and potential value to their employer.

Personalization Evens the Playing Field

Finally, the design and format of a training experience makes a fateful difference. A platform that delivers uninspiring, generic content, or doesn’t help workers expand their particular skills and competencies, stands a good chance of being rated tedious or irrelevant. But a program that personalizes content and learning cadence to each user — something advances in artificial intelligence (AI) make suddenly, pleasingly feasible? A far different story.

We all benefit from personal attention. When I take time to walk a teammate through a prototype idea, it’s far more effective than if I told them to go play a video. Until now, most organizations couldn’t offer everyone individual guidance and attention.

Modern learning platforms change the game with tailored experiences that map to individual skills and competencies. They can foster a culture of continual reskilling that unleashes human potential and keeps organizations ahead of the curve.

Always Be Learning

In the emerging workplace of the future, learning will be a constant. Organizations seeking to reduce their recruitment costs, retain top talent and maintain a competitive edge must look to training (and retraining!) their entire human engine, from C-suite to entry level. They’ll also set aside the old one-size-fits-all, skim-this-PowerPoint approach and embrace a personalization-friendly strategy that elevates relevant competencies and delivers an engaging, pleasing experience.

A final finding from the survey: 77% agreed workplace learning should be “fun, and not a chore.” And why not? It suggests a company that sees the value in fun can draw a bright line from there, to a broadly supported culture of perpetual learning, to growth and success.

By Graham Glass